Never has the need been greater at the Harvest on Vine food pantry, but Director Tom MacDonald this week reported reinforcements have been pouring in from the community, as well as a major grant last week from the City’s Boston Resiliency Fund.
Harvest on Vine hasn’t missed a distribution – which are two per month – since the COVID-19 crisis started, but they have been seeing a much greater need and their cupboards are often bare when they’re done.
The last distribution was on May 8, and it featured a big need.
“”The number of families that are new and returning is daunting,” he said. “We had more than 300 families come through and probably distributed somewhere in the neighborhood of 15,000 to 17,000 pounds of food. People need food. It’s what it is. Thank God for the mayor and the generous people of Charlestown. We’ve never missed a distribution. We do two a month and we’re trying to stick with that because it’s so hard to reload. After the distribution on Saturday, I didn’t have a can of food left. We gave everything away.”
In the past, he said they would have a few thousand pounds of food left over in case of emergencies or other needs. Now, it’s bring the food in, and send it all out.
“We bring it in and give it all away, and then look to re-load,” he said. “There are more families and they need more food because everyone is home from school. Kids go through things like breakfast cereal quickly.”
One of the problems has been with so much need in the entire region, it’s hard to get an appointment at the Greater Boston Food Bank. It can take a lot of time to get an appointment to pick up food, and in between MacDonald said he needs to make sure there is enough food for distributions
That’s where the Resiliency Fund will help so they can purchase their food.
“We’re really thinking we can dip into this the next two or three months,” he said. “The Greater Boston Food Bank is having trouble with their supply lines. They don’t have enough food and there are so many pantries that need food. It’s hard to get a time slot over there…It can be days before you are able to get in there and get food. I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon.”
MacDonald credited Mayoral Liaison Quinn Locke with telling them about the Fund and helping them to get the applications in and approved.
Beyond that, he said they have been getting incredible support. The Cooperative Bank and Cambridge Savings Bank have stepped up their support, and so have elected officials State Rep. Dan Ryan, Sen. Sal DiDomenico and Councilor Lydia Edwards. Others helping have been the Charlestown Neighborhood Council, whose grant process allowed them to get an outdoor freezer to store meat. He mentioned Dougie MacDonald, Spaulding Rehab, and many others as helping – in addition to the neighbors who are providing great support through food drives.
One example was when the Charlestown Mothers’ Association donated 200 facemasks just in the nick of time.
“Those are fundamental at this place,” he said. “We had just given out our last mask that we had and then Shannon Fitzgerald from the CMA showed up with 200. Things just work out that way and it has been wonderful. It’s just been a real community effort here.”